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Helsinki Theatrics: Trump meets Putin

The first official meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart Donald Trump was a fairly casual, unpeopled affair, absent bureaucrats and note takers. This was what both wanted in Helsinki, men who believe in the gold weighting authority commands. According to Masha Gissen of The New Yorker, their meeting reflected “their shared understanding of power: the triumph of nothing over everyone.”

The Helsinki meeting, on the surface, did more for Putin than Trump, though the details about the actual discussions are scant. “Why did Trump,” inquired former director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, “meet one on one with Putin? What might he be hiding from Bolton, Pompeo, Kelly, and the American public?” Left, instead, was a joint press conference that had the intended rumbling effect, filled with distraction and fury inspiring titbits.

Trump, showing his traditional hostility to the US intelligence community, fell a touch short of publicly believing the Russian president over his own aides. “They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin – he just said it’s not Russia.”

His own director of national intelligence Dan Coats is of the contrary view. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”

Even more defiantly, Trump’s views were being aired in the aftermath of indictments against twelve Russian intelligence agents accused of interfering in US politics, a reminder that Robert Mueller has every intention of keeping the issue of Russia and the 2016 election in the news. This is standard fare for Trump; prior to breakfast at Mäntyniemi Palace, he took the opportunity to fire a few broadsides at the special counsel investigation, characterising it a “Rigged Witch Hunt”.

The glacial state of US-Russian relations also came under scrutiny, and for that, claimed the president, one need only look to the poisonous well of US foreign policy. Such audacious instances of self-inculpation are rare.

The Democrats, certain Republicans and the anti-Trump fraternity, were not amused. The reaction was one of stunned derision laced with jaw-dropping consternation. Former House speaker, Newt Gingrich assessed it as “the most serious mistake of his presidency” which needed correction “immediately”.

Senator minority leader Chuck Schumer resorted to hyperbolic comparison: “In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin.” Siding with Putin “against American law enforcement, American defense officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous and weak.”

Policy establishment wonks former and current screamed treason. Brennan, who has made it a habit to attack the elected head of his country, shows the yawning and disconcerting gap between Trump the populist and the intelligence services who seem to, in some quarters, fantasise about a coup d’état. “Donald Trump’s press conference in Helsinki,” came Brennan’s assessment, “rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’.” Casting the pale light on Trump in such a way – that such conduct was “nothing short of treasonous” – feeds the desperate drive for impeachment.

Some of the responses have been unmoored from any sense of proportion. “I’m ready to call this the darkest hour in the history of the American presidency,” tweeted a despairing Garry Kasparov, a person who has vainly railed against the Putin apparatus for years. “Let me know if you can think of any competition.”

The contenders are surely more plentiful than Kasparov admits; the corruption of Watergate, the inglorious elections that gave two terms of the Bush administration; decisions made to expand warrantless surveillance and the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003 – all these provide concrete examples of ruination and battering that have given us the shoddy Republic we have today. The Trump-Putin show is simply that, a boys’ own gathering where dreams and delusions can be exchanged with minimal impact. Showing fury and frothing rage at such acts is precisely what the Trump complex feeds off, drawing in critics and supporters alike.

In Russia, the details of the meeting matter less than its fact, supplying a totally different angle on proportion. Agendas are less significant than performance, and no one is going to remember anything past the bromide exchanges in Helsinki. Relations between the countries remain on their icy settings, with Trump unmoved to change US policy towards Crimea’s annexation in 2014 and the Iran nuclear deal. A new era in US-Russian relations has been proclaimed without script or object.

Apoplectic critics of Trump, having fallen for what they regard as the grotesque and sinister, ignore the actual machinery of policy making that is this administration. The capital now runs on a set of parallel lines that never threaten to meet, one set in the White House as a televisual production with Making America Great Again as its pitch, and others running through traditional establishments in the State Department, the Pentagon and security annexes who continue feathering the National Security State. Such aides as national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are certainly not softening to Putin.

The Trump show remains one of goggles and screen rather than substance and product; and while Putin will have a damn good go at convincing Trump to wind back the Magnitsky sanctions and embrace the visage of authoritarian confidence, that is something reserved for domestic consumption. This show of nothingness, as Gissen deems it, has yielded nothing.

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21 comments

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  1. David Bruce

    I think the Schiller Institute is on to something with their Paradigm Shift, after their successful efforts with the Singapore Summit. The Crown Agents in the US SES are losing the plot and the US press is bleating like a stuck pig? Who’s blood lust are we feeding with more wars and killing?

  2. metadatalata

    Nothing is what it seems when it comes to American politics and the level of corruption by those who control the flow of money. Actually the press as usual missed the bombshell announcement by Putin where he declared:
    “$400 million in illegally earned profits was funneled to the Clinton campaign by associates of American-born British financier Bill Browder (at one time the largest foreign portfolio investors in Russia). The scheme involved members of the U.S. intelligence community, who accompanied and guided these transactions”.

    There is a great article which explains a bit about Bill Browder and how he fleeced Russia out of billions of dollars at the expense of the state here https://t.co/bhx8ijTGCb
    So many powerful people in USA financial institutions and politics benefit from international conflict so it is not surprising that most privately owned news channels there spruik tensions between USA and every other country where conflict can fester.

    In Australia, we can all learn the lesson even with our own politicians to be very weary of what passes as news. We need to carefully consider what is to gain from any news story either here or abroad as we can see with the case of Bill Browder that money can buy its own truth unless there are people who can hold these people to account.

    It will be interesting to see if any journalists follow the money trails to find the truth in these new revelations made by Putin.

  3. Kaye Lee

    metadatalata,

    Why would you believe Putin about that? It may be true but, on current and past record, I would not expect anything said by Putin in a press conference involving western media to be anything other than manipulative.

    Zerohedge is also a source that cannot be relied on for necessarily verifying the facts. Written by Tyler Durden? Really?

  4. Kronomex

    The world is screwed: “Mr Turnbull, when asked whether Mr Trump was a traitor, said: “Of course not. Donald Trump is a patriot. He’s an American patriot. His job is in representing his country and he’s doing that to the best of his ability just like I represent our country Australia to the best of my ability.”” I feel violently ill after reading that bullshit from Trembles. The “best of his ability” is to make sure that he stays as PM as he and his cronies continue the destruction of Australia as democracy and bleed the 90% to feed the 10%.

    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/trump-a-patriot-turnbull-says-as-us-erupts-over-russia-claims-20180717-p4zrxk.html

  5. Christopher

    Why should Trump believe his intelligence ‘experts’? Mueller has been caught out in the past, lying about Iraq’s WMDs.

    So, why should Trump believe them and not Putin? Lots of evidence the DNC emails were leaked not hacked. Seth Rich was murdered for what he knew.

    And, plenty of evidence that the US engages routinely in trying to influence foreign elections, so the hyperbole is way overdone

  6. MöbiusEcko

    And as he always does, Trump has backtracked on what he has stated. This time he’s done so by saying that if you change just one word of his Helsinki speech, “would” to “wouldn’t”, it makes everything ok.

  7. ace Jones

    America in decline grows weaker by the day under Trump

    the Yanks really deserve treasonous trash-talking Trump

  8. New England Cocky

    Trumpery; n, showy but worthless.

  9. metadatalata

    Hi Kaye,

    “Why would you believe Putin about that? It may be true but, on current and past record, I would not expect anything said by Putin in a press conference involving western media to be anything other than manipulative.”

    What I am saying is that with any political stories coming out of the USA, don’t take them on face value. Think critically about why a story is published and who has to gain. There is a lot unfolding at this time about who actually funded certain presidential candidates campaigns. While blame is being deflected to outside countries, it seems that much of the funding has probably come from wealthy individuals within USA with the backing of their own spy organizations.

    There are some striking similarities here in Australia where we have the buffoon Malcolm and his side-kick dutton stirring up racial hatred to take the focus away from the fraud and crimes of his political party. And a partisan AFP vigorously investigating opponents of his party on corruption charges while the LNP members appear untouchable by common law.

  10. Kaye Lee

    metadatalata,

    But it’s a story coming from Putin. And why anyone reads what zerohedge publishes is beyond me. They love whacky conspiracy theories.

    I have no doubt that rich people are behind campaigns. And I deplore the state of politics here. I am sure if I had to look into US politics I would go crazy.

    Of course be sceptical, even cynical. I question everything. But I most certainly do not trust anything that comes from Putin without a hell of a lot of independent evidence to back it up. His raison d’etre is destabalisation of the west. He promotes doubt and fuels discord. That’s why he loves Trump – doing the job for him.

  11. etnorb

    What an absolute farce was this! The Trumpster & Putin BOTH could not tell the truth if their lives depended on it! and now Trumpster reckons he said the “wrong word” or was it his fake news crap, whichever, this whole so called “meeting” debacle was nothing less than a “show” for us all! WTF??? Another great article Dr Kampmark!

  12. Michael Taylor

    It’s too pathetic – and hilarious – for words, Mobius.

  13. Ricardo29

    I think Putin, like Kim, has played Trump for the fool he is. Putin looked smug and self-satisfied, and why not? Even conceding to ‘misspeaking’ Trump still doesn’t seem to see what an evil bastard Putin is, former KGB Colonel — do leopards change their spots?

    In the meantime there’s the mass hypocrisy from the US media, the CIA and FBI, Dems and Republicans over the issue of interference in their election, given the decades of vicious, violent and egregious interference by the US in countries across the globe, not to mention propping up oppressive regimes such as the current Israeli Government.

  14. Mark

    Well stated Christopher! Glad to see common sense not stunted by the mainstream drivel. Facts are the only thing the media should be reporting on, not opinions.

  15. Frank Smith

    I heard somewhere this morning that the Russians are now saying that Putin made a mistake about Browder’s contribution – apparently Putin meant to say 400 thousand. See, both Putin and Trump can make these very trivial one-word errors. But I heard Browder interviewed this morning and he claims he has not donated to any US political Party – in fact he claimed he was not even a US citizen but a Brit living in London. I know nothing about the man so am unable to offer anything on the veracity of these claims – perhaps someone else can. If he is in Britain he better beware of the novochek or plutonium though!

  16. Kronomex

    This has to one of the best pieces of Trump satire that seen to date. It’s quite literally a MUST SEE.

  17. Frank Smith

    Just like Trump and Putin, I have returned this morning to acknowledge that I made a one-word error in my post last night – it was polonium not plutonium that some foreigner with a funny fur hat dropped into Alexander Litvinenko’s cup of tea. That plutonium is far too valuable for making bombs so best not waste it on asassinations.

  18. Kyran

    It’s funny how quickly conversations polarize dependent on your ‘perceptions’. In the closing paragraph, Dr Kampmark references;
    “Putin will have a damn good go at convincing Trump to wind back the Magnitsky sanctions”
    The reasons aren’t necessarily conspiratorial. Putin has a personal fortune of over $40bill, amassed while he was the ‘elected’ leader. There have been speculative articles written about his reluctance to ‘retire’ not because he has anything more to achieve but that, if he loses his grip on authority, he may become subject to scrutiny, as will his wealth. The Magnitsky Act in America has led to other countries adopting similar legislation. In simplistic terms, it is a ‘proceeds of crimes act’ which authorizes governments to sanction human rights offenders by freezing their foreign assets and restricting their freedom of international movement.
    The second comment in by metadatalata makes reference to Bill Browder, an unapologetic billionaire and hedge fund boss. Funny thing is, he’s been the main proponent of the Magnitsky act.
    “The man who helped blow the whistle on rampant corruption in Moscow and has been described as Vladimir Putin’s “number one enemy” has blasted Donald Trump’s meeting with the Russian President, saying Mr Putin should be “severely contained, not engaged”.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-17/putins-number-one-enemy-slams-trump-meeting/10000652

    Browder, the bloke everyone attacks and the reason they attack him is one of those great ‘look over there’ exercises. It comes as no surprise to anyone that T-Rump fell for Putin’s crap. Hook. Line. And sinker. It should be noted our government has stated they have neither the desire nor the need to contemplate anything even vaguely resembling Magnitsky. Punishing foreign leaders for human rights abuses is definitely not in our governments interests.
    Thankyou Dr Kampmark and commenters. Take care

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